As the long lazy days of summer stare back at most youngsters, some find themselves facing an essential question: Should I spend my summer vacation earning money and experience, or should I goof off?
For some, the question is answered easily. The work force is usually not too inviting to youngsters under the age of 18; younger employees offer neither the experience or well-developed resume employers want.
Recognizing that, Crofton leaders decided some 20 years ago to offer their own community-based solution. Charlie Franich, then community counselor, spearheaded the Summer Job Bank in the mid 1970s.
The job bank is a referral resource for community residents who need assistance with such jobs as yard care, pet sitting, house sitting, child care and other chores.
Young adults from 11 to 17 years old interested in placing their names and the services they offer on the referral list must fill out an application at Town Hall on Crofton Parkway. Adults looking to hire also call Town Hall; their inquiries and the youngsters' applications are forwarded to the job bank operator, usually a volunteer from the Crofton community.
Cindy Kelly, 18, an Arundel High School graduate who will be attending the Baltimore County campus of the University of Maryland in the fall, has been responsible for the job bank since 1990.
"I was offered an internship two years ago at Town Hall and my primary responsibility was running the job bank," Ms. Kelly said. "After the internship ended, I kept with it. It's not a hassle. It's a good program, an excellent way to help people find each other."
Ms. Kelly, who also works at a Blockbuster Video store, operates the service year-round with the help of her mother, Judy.
The Kellys successfully matched Heather Holcomb, 14, and Valerie Shea. Mrs Shea needed someone to watch her 22-month-old son, Tommy III, while she did housework during the day.
"I chose Heather over two other girls because the others weren't really interested in playing with him. She's pretty young, but she seems kind and responsible," Mrs. Shea said.
"The job bank really has been helpful," said Heather, a student at Arundel High School. "I was looking for a job at other places, but a lot of them are not hiring 14-year-olds. Most prefer 16-year-olds."
"Overall," said Mrs. Shea, a resident of Crofton for 11 years, "the job bank is a good thing to have . . . it should be duplicated in other communities. But I think it should play more of a role in screening the applicants."
When Crofton residents call the Kellys looking for workers, they are provided with the names and numbers of four or five applicants. The resident is then responsible for interviewing and hiring. Fees are negotiated during the hiring. The youngsters' parents are encouraged to be part of the negotiations.
"Generally, we don't get too many calls. They come in spurts; the last call we received for workers was a couple of weeks ago," Ms. Kelly said.
Judy Kelly says interest in the job bank is not very balanced. There are more people looking for help than there are children interested in working. One youngster may get three or four jobs.
Interest in the job bank is cyclical. The Kellys usually receive a rash of calls for young people to mow lawns and house sit in the summer, shovel snow in the winter and rake leaves in the fall. The demand for baby-sitting, however, is year-round.
Linda Smith, the Crofton community counselor who ran the job bank before turning it over to the Kellys, said the service benefits all involved.
"Hiring through the job bank saves [residents] money," she said. "This is a convenient resource that has no fee attached to it. It even allows the resident to be responsible for hiring just as any employer would be. It's a simple and very efficient process."
For the young person, she said, "It is their entrance into the business world. It allows them to do what they are ready for. It gives them a sense of contribution and value to the community."
Even the Kellys benefit, she said. "They help keep the community in connection with each other. It lets them be a good neighbor."